Numbers: Midpoint

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at The Third Part of Henry the Sixth.

There are 2904 lines in the play, which puts the midpoint at line 1452, which is at Act Three, Scene Two, line 66, during Edward’s “wooing” of Lady Grey.

Edward, in exchange for reinstating the Grey titles and lands, has won Elizabeth Woodville’s “love (for) a king” (III.ii.53).  Only that is NOT the kind of love this king wants, and as he talks his way around the conversation to the point where she begins to realize that he “mean(s) not as (she) though (he) did” (III.ii.65), Edward says lasciviously, “But now you partly may perceive my mind” (III.ii.66).

This single-line speech is the midpoint of the play as a whole.  So why is it important?

First, it speaks to Edward’s “wanton” nature (I.iv.75).  He is NOT concerned with the loyal subject’s love for a sovereign.  Instead, he is only interested in the pleasures of the flesh: sex over state.

Second, this lust will quickly lead to Edward’s hasty marriage to Lady Grey, which will then set into motion the main plotline of the second half of the play: Warwick’s rebellion from York and new support for the Lancastrian cause (extending the War of the Roses).

like father, like son: like his father’s failure to live up to his compromise with Henry, Edward fails to live up to the marriage that Warwick is negotiating in France… and these failures lead to more death

But third–and by far most important–this act of “lustful Edward” (III.ii.129) prompts Richard’s soliloquy at the end of the scene.  Up to this point, there is absolutely NO indication that Richard has ANY ambition for the crown.  Up to now, he has been a York loyalist, doing the work necessary to put his FAMILY on the throne.

Here, however, he begins to plot for his ascension (to “the golden time” of his “soul’s desire”… “the crown” [III.ii.127, 128, and 140]) and against his own family.

As we noted lat week, Richard’s vision of his obstacles is derisive: these people in line for the throne–the issue of loins in sex–are nothing more than ejaculate.

And to hear his brother as he “plies” (III.ii.50) his lust… well, this is the straw that breaks the crookback.

Edward’s lust causes Richard’s explosion of thought, Richard’s own ejaculation of ambition.

Edward’s wanton wooing of Woodville is the precipitating event for Richard’s villainy, an evil that will last longer than just this play, of which Edward’s coy comment is the midpoint.

This one line is the sexual insinuation that unleashes an orgy of death in the play that follows.

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